Josie Ortega shares authentic, easy Mexican food ideas for a fun family Cinco de Mayo fiesta!
Easy Mexican Food to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
Like Paris, tacos are always a good idea. With many options and variations, every family member, from the adventurous to the picky, can find something to love: fish tacos, crockpot pork carnitas, taco salad, corn or flour tortillas. Spicy or medium or mild!
On Taco Tuesday in our family, I typically make a basic Tex Mex beef taco recipe, which my Mexican husband finds acceptable. That’s saying a lot; he maintains high standards. When I took him home to Memphis and out to eat at my family’s favorite Mexican restaurant, he nearly broke up with me because he found the white queso (pronounced “kay-so”) dip so revolting.
Fortunately, our relationship recovered, and I’ve had fun learning more about Mexican food beyond the scope of the tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and nachos of my Taco Bell youth.
To be honest, those things are yummy. By all means: mix Velveeta cheese and a can of Ro-tel (if you’re not from the South: that’s the brand name can of diced tomatoes and green chiles) to make queso dip that will disappear before you can say Speedy Gonzalez. It’s easy and delicious!
But, amigos, Mexico is a large country with so many more food offerings! If you’d like to balance the Ro-tel dip with something un poco mas autentico, try one of these easy options:
Easy Mexican Food: Appetizers
While prepping the build-your-own taco station—by the way, I like Pioneer Woman’s taco seasoning mix, and her guacamole recipe—I often set out veggies to fend off any wild dogs, er, children, roaming around looking for a bite of something.
Our favorite: cucumbers and Tajin spice. This spice, which is available at many grocery stores in the tortilla aisle, and definitely at the Latino market—will make your kids gobble more veggies and fruit than you ever thought possible. It’s not too hot, just super tasty. We most often put it on cucumbers, along with lime juice if we’ve got it. Also great on fruit like mango, watermelon, and jicama. Whenever I’m in Trader Joe’s, I pick up the pre-sliced jicama to make life easy.
My husband likes to make margaritas, but if we’re not in the mood to squeeze oranges and limes, my favorite local Mexican restaurant sells their margarita mix to use at home. Leave out the tequila, and mix it with soda water for a refreshing, delicious beverage option. Topo Chico bottled water also gives a fun authentic flair to the tablescape. I mean, the tablescape may not be at the top of the list of things we’re all looking for in the middle of a pandemic . . . but it’s the little things, right?
Fun Easy Mexican Sides
Homemade Tortillas. My husband prefers corn tortillas, but they fall apart easily and making them at home is pretty tricky. We won’t get full points from him, but it’s really fun and satisfying to make basic flour tortillas with the kids. If we mess them up . . . oh well. Still taste great.
Tostadas. The deliciousness of these blows my mind. The combination of simple, humble ingredients adds up to way more than the sum of its parts. From bottom to top:
- Tostadas: the flat, crispy taco rounds.
- Frijoles: heat oil, some diced onion, dump the can of refried beans in there to heat up. My mother-in-law buys the Ducal brand, FYI. Spread on the tostada to be the glue for:
- Crema Mexicana. This is like a sweet sour cream, and it’s SO GOOD. You’ll have to ration it and hide it from your children.
- Queso fresco. Crumbling up this white cheese makes a good job for a child.
These tostadas on the side may steal the show from taco soup or pozole. Or, we can bulk them up into a main dish by adding other ingredients like lettuce, chicken, and salsa.
Elote, or street corn. This is basically corn, chili, lime juice, cotija cheese, and crema. It could be on the cob or in a cup. Can substitute yogurt or sour cream, frozen corn instead of fresh, or even the “Everything But the Elote” seasoning from Trader Joe’s! I love this stuff so much.
Easy Mexican Food: Dessert
In warm weather, we can make some paletas, or popsicles, with interesting flavor combos.
If it’s cold, there’s always Mexican Hot Chocolate.
If we’re in the mood for something richer, we try Abuela’s flan recipe:
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 2 eggs
- Dump ingredients into blender and blend!
- Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
This is an easy Mexican recipe for the kids to participate in: dump into the blender, then pour into the baking dish. Once, my husband took the lead on this dessert, but mixed up the proportions and added 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk and 1 egg. Great news! Still delicious, just a thinner consistency. So we served it in cups and slurped it up, smacking our lips with satisfaction.
[Edited to add: My husband tells me that “Olé” is not really Mexican, more of a Spain thing. I’m still learning!]
What are your favorite Mexican recipes to cook and eat? Share with family and plan your Cinco de Mayo menu using FamilyApp!